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Bob Marley: king of reggae, champion of the oppressed; Marley continues to unite from the grave; Marley's fans gather in Ethiopia

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  • Fr. John-Brian
    Excerpt from article: Marley served as a de facto missionary for the Rastas, preaching brotherhood and peace for all of mankind. Later he was baptised into
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2005
      Excerpt from article:

      "Marley served as a de facto missionary for the Rastas, preaching
      brotherhood and peace for all of mankind. Later he was baptised into the
      Ethiopian Orthodox Church with the name Berhane Selassie. "

      AFP Features

      Bob Marley: king of reggae, champion of the oppressed

      Tue Feb 1,10:49 AM ET

      PARIS (AFP) - Rastafarian reggae legend Bob Marley rose to superstar status
      in a career cut cruelly short by cancer, championing through his music the
      rights of the oppressed and his vision of "One World, One Love."

      Marley, who would have celebrated his 60th birthday on Sunday, died in 1981
      aged just 36 leaving a staggering legacy of music which continues to
      influence the world's leading artists even today.

      Some 400,000 people, most of them foreigners, are expected to crowd Addis
      Ababa for a month of festivities that kicked off Tuesday to mark what would
      have been the king of reggae's 60th birthday.

      Marley was Jamaica's proudest son, and the first true superstar to come from
      the developing world, but he had the humblest of beginnings.

      Born on February 6, 1945, as Robert Nesta Marley, his mother was an
      18-year-old black girl called Cedella Booker while his father was Captain
      Norval Marley, a 50-year-old white quartermaster attached to the British
      West Indian Regiment.

      After starting in ska music and recording a few songs in 1962, Marley went
      on to form with five others the group The Wailers in 1963.

      Bob Marley and The Wailers, which included Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh,
      were over the next two decades to become largely responsible for the
      mainstream acceptance of reggae.

      They first signed with Studio One, but in 1966 Marley, who had married his
      girlfriend Rita, left Jamaica for what was to be a short-lived trip to the
      United States where his mother was then living.

      It was on his return in October of that year, that he first embraced the
      Rastafari religion which regarded former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie
      (Ras Tafari) as its spiritual leader.

      Marley served as a de facto missionary for the Rastas, preaching brotherhood
      and peace for all of mankind. Later he was baptised into the Ethiopian
      Orthodox Church with the name Berhane Selassie.

      Although Rastafari was a blending of Christian and Jewish religions, it was
      controversial for advocating the smoking of marijuana as a religious rite.
      Followers were also banned from cutting their hair, or from drinking

      In 1972 Marley signed with Chris Blackwell's Island Records label, a highly
      influential and innovative label, which boasted a range of successful
      artists including Genesis and John Martyn.

      By then Marley's reputation had spread through Jamaica, but he remained
      unknown on the international scene.

      That was to change with the launch of "Catch a Fire", the first Wailers
      album to be released outside of Jamaica. It won international acclaim, and
      was followed the next year by "Burnin'" which contained the smash hit "I
      Shot the Sheriff."

      Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left the group, but his wife Rita joined and the
      1974 album release "Natty Dread" containing "No Woman, No Cry" brought them
      huge success.

      As he delved deeper into Rastafari, Marley's songs took up themes of social
      justice such as "Get up, Stand up" as he increasingly adopted the mantle as
      a champion of the world's oppressed.

      In 1976 he was shot in what was believed to be a politically motivated
      attack amid unrest in Jamaica at the time, but that was never proved.

      The following year, Marley found a wound on his right big toe, thought to
      have come from an injury playing football. But an eventual diagnosis
      revealed he had a form of skin cancer growing under his toenail.

      Initially due to his beliefs, he refused treatment. In 1980 he performed for
      the first time in Africa, and took part in the independence ceremonies for

      But later that year during a series of concerts in New York, he collapsed.
      He sought help, but by then it was too late the cancer had spread to his
      brain, lungs and liver.

      He recorded one last album "Uprising", with the soulful "Redemption Song" on
      which he sings alone with his guitar. Then the disease took its toll.
      Emaciated, shorn of his famous dreadlocks, Marley died on May 11, 1981.

      But his early death earned him a lasting place among the legendary popular
      figures of the 20th century alongside such greats as Elvis Presley Jim
      Morrison. And through his music and his image printed on millions of
      T-shirts and posters every year, Marley lives on.

      + + + + + + + + +

      Marley continues to unite from the grave


      February 2, 2005

      Throughout his life, Bob Marley looked to Ethiopia as the spiritual home of
      his Rastafarian faith.

      But as Ethiopia welcomes hundreds of thousands of revellers for a month of
      festivities starting today in honour of the Jamaican reggae legend, many
      view Rastafarians - some of whom settled in Ethiopia because they could
      worship the nation's last emperor - with deep suspicion.

      At best, the tiny Rastafarian community is tolerated as an oddity in the
      deeply traditional and overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country on the Horn
      of Africa.

      At worst, they are accused of spreading drugs and crime, claims they dismiss
      as springing from prejudice.

      Organisers of this month's celebrations hope music will melt away tensions.

      Marley's widow, Rita, together with the African Union and the UN Children's
      Fund, is organising the $US1 million ($1.3 million) extravaganza dubbed
      Africa Unite in honour of one of his most famous songs.

      The highlight is Ethiopia's largest-ever concert on Marley's birthday,
      February 6, in the capital, Addis Ababa.

      "I have dreamed about doing this for years," said Marcia Griffiths, a singer
      in Marley's former backing group, as she arrived in Ethiopia for the first
      time yesterday.

      "All my life I wanted to come here with Bob in the flesh. Now I'm here and I
      know he is here in the spirit."

      It is the first time the annual commemoration has been held outside Jamaica.

      Ethiopian officials estimate 500,000 people will attend the festivities.
      After the concert in Addis, celebrations will move to Shashemene, where the
      Rastafarians have built their community.

      Marley's music has always been popular, and Ethiopians welcome the many
      visitors, and money, the event could bring their impoverished country.

      The capital's cassette and CD stalls, which normally blare Ethiopian pop,
      have changed tunes to Marley classics Get Up, Stand Up and I Shot The

      "I think the Bob Marley concert will be very good for the country," said
      Yared Kebede, a teacher. "With thousands of people coming here and spending
      money, that can't be a bad thing."

      Rastafarians worshipped Ethiopia's last emperor - Haile Selassie, who died
      in 1975 - as their living god, a belief based on a 1920 prophecy by Jamaican
      civil rights leader Marcus Garvey that a black man would be crowned king in

      Selassie in turn granted Rastafarians land in 1963 at Shashemene, 250
      kilometres south of Addis Ababa, where several hundred continue to live. But
      successive governments have refused to give Rastafarians citizenship in
      their adopted country.

      "In any other country in the world, if you stay in the country a number of
      years and have children, those children would have citizenship, but not
      here," lamented Ambrose King, deputy head of the Rastafarians' Ethiopian
      World Federation.

      On Friday, Rita Marley said she was determined to honour her husband's wish
      for burial in Ethiopia, but did not say when the body might be moved from

      She first announced the reburial plans earlier this month, to the chagrin of
      many in Jamaica who feared losing their cultural heritage.

      Historian Richard Pankhurst said Selassie never held a particular affinity
      for Rastafarians.

      The late emperor, who ruled from 1930 until he was overthrown in a 1974
      military coup that abolished the monarchy, also granted land to Armenian
      refugees, Pankhurst said.

      Some Ethiopians are irked by the deification of Selassie, a man many saw as
      an autocrat, albeit a benevolent one.

      The Orthodox Church never granted Selassie, who claimed to be a direct
      descendant of King David, the status of saint, which it bestowed on other
      Ethiopian emperors.

      Regular drug busts in Shashemene - a dusty, wind-swept town of sleazy bars
      and prostitutes - have also fuelled local prejudices against Rastafarians.

      "The problem with the Jamaicans is that they smoke drugs," said Kebede, the
      teacher, using the local expression for Rastafarians, regardless of their

      For Rastafarians, who preach a oneness with nature, smoking marijuana is a

      Commemoration organisers hope to highlight issues like HIV/AIDS, war and
      poverty, while raising funds for tsunami relief in Somalia, the Shashemene
      Medical Centre and a Bob Marley Youth Development Centre in downtown Addis

      Rita Marley will sing with Griffiths and Judy Mowatt as the I-Threes, Bob
      Marley's former backing group, on February 6.

      Joining them on stage will be Senegal's Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour,
      Benin's Kidjo, reggae rapper Shaggy, soul singer India.arie and Marley's

      Marley's fans gather in Ethiopia

      The celebrations will pay tribute to Marley's advocacy of African liberation

      Thousands of Rastafarians and music fans are gathering in Ethiopia to begin
      a month of events to mark what have would been Bob Marley's 60th birthday.

      It is the first time the annual celebrations are being held outside the
      reggae legend's native Jamaica.

      Ethiopia was chosen because Rastafarians, such as the late singer, regard
      the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as their spiritual leader.

      Marley's widow Rita Marley has said one day she wants him reburied in

      She has distanced herself from initial comments she made last month that
      Marley would be reburied as part of this year's celebrations.

      "It was a dream of Bob Marley and it is a dream of the family to bury him in
      Ethiopia. As we believe in what is to be, must be, it will happen in due
      course," she told AFP news agency.


      Netsanet Asfaw, Ethiopia's minister of state for information, said Ethiopia
      was pleased to be hosting the events.

      A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is
      like a tree without roots

      Marcus Garvey
      Jamaican black nationalist leader
      "Bob Marley put Ethiopia on a pedestal and it is in his honour that this
      festival is going to take place here," she said.

      Under the banner Africa Unite, the month-long events will include concerts,
      a film festival, seminars and a gala fundraiser using the themes of Marley's
      songs including War, Exodus and Get Up Stand Up.

      They will kick off on Tuesday evening with a concert by the late singer's
      80-year-old mother, Cedella Marley Booker.

      A highlight will be a concert in the capital, Addis Ababa, on 6 February -
      Marley's birthday - featuring three of Marley's children as well as Quincy
      Jones, Baaba Maal, Youssou N'Dour and Angelique Kidjo.

      After that the celebrations will move to Shashemene, some 250km (155 miles)
      south of the capital, where a Rastafarian community has settled on land left
      to them by Haile Selassie.

      Peace recognition

      Marley became an icon of the 1970s with his music catching the imagination
      of millions.

      Rita's remarks about the reburial did not go down well in Jamaica

      Africa Unite is from his most political album, Survival.

      On the cover is a quotation from black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey: "A
      people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is
      like a tree without roots".

      Marley was a dedicated Rastafarian and a strong believer in one of its
      central beliefs, the importance of return to Mother Africa.

      He received a United Nations Peace Award , in recognition of his attempts to
      calm the warring factions of Jamaican politics and played at Zimbabwe's
      independence celebrations in 1980, where he discovered more Zimbabweans knew
      the lyrics of his song than knew the words of the national anthem.

      Aged 36, he died of cancer in 1981 and was buried with his Gibson guitar and
      Bible beside him.
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